Album Review: Nevropathy – “The Deafening” 7/10 (Black Metal)

NevropathyThe Deafening
Black metal from Massachusetts, USA
Released May 7th, 2021

We listen to music for lots of reasons. One of those is the experience of the authentic expression of the artist; sometimes we want to hear the soul of the human being on the other side of the recording. It’s rewarding to feel what they feel, especially when the artist or album prioritizes that authenticity. Nevropathy is one of those artists, and debut The Deafening is one of those albums.

Based in Boston, Nevropathy (pronounced “neuropathy”, the “v” is a nod to black metal aesthetic) is the solo project of R. Grodin, formerly of grindcore outfit Armpits, and if you like feverish, frostbitten black metal and filthy, brooding death, you’re probably going to wish you’d found this record sooner. It’s an emotional experience, an exposing of painful, vulnerable nerve endings that carries its feelings right there in plain sight on the fraying sleeve of its hooded robes. The entire project was conceived, written, recorded, mixed, and mastered in the isolation of our shared worldwide nightmare, and I’ll let Grodin himself explain: “With no crutch, nothing to numb the pain…I wanted to share my music with others in hopes they will be able to seek light in darkness.” 

It’s an admirable and beautiful approach to creating art, but make no mistake, this is ugly, anguished music, the kind that helps you seek light by providing a place of catharsis to purge the darkness. The Deafening’s predominant sound is a rough-around-the-edges black metal, but there’s enough death metal influence present as well that you could get away with calling it blackened death (although it’s more like deathened black, in my opinion). Making up the core of the aesthetic is buzzy guitar and the sort of palpably raw and unprocessed drum work that always feels unapologetically authentic. There’s a thick, round-toned bass present across the record which even takes the lead through a number of passages, like in the main riff of “At the End”. And, of course, there are gritty, angsty harsh vocals. Grodin’s vocal timbre isn’t the typical high-pitched shrieking or screaming you might expect; he uses a lower, snarling tone with layered dubbing.

The album’s first sounds are ambient static and distorted voices, plus the first appearance of what Grodin calls a “dark orchestra”: a dark, frequently drone-esque amalgamation of horn and choir effects that appears for most of the record’s duration, despite often being imperceptible. As “Origin”, an instrumental, continues with ominous slow guitar chords, there’s a palpable sense of claustrophobia, and of dusk. “Cyanogen” then begins The Deafening’s long night, driven by guitar and galloping forward in triplets as the album’s impassioned vocals make their first appearance. It’s a song about the struggle of sobriety, delivered in as ragged and painful an approach as the subject matter requires: “Nothing / Can carve me away / Swallow the knife / A staff of life”.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, this is a record that tackles actual life issues head-on. It’s one of the biggest reasons why the rough and raw style works: because the uncomfortable, stinging emotions are actually embodied by the music itself. “A Whore in Ram’s Cloth” is the longest track on the album and its lyrical focus is gender identity. It’s a ferocious and unfiltered middle finger to people who use their religion to condemn those who don’t fit into the traditional binary gender roles: “No longer to hide / I will destroy with my light…/…Break them / Bury them / Let them know they are dead”. 

Another darkly hued yet meditative instrumental (“Desolation”) begins the second half of the record, and while it starts simple, the back half contains some truly poignant, beautiful melodies. Then “At the End” arrives with expansive chords followed by blasting and tremolos to snap us back to reality. The lyrics deal with the pain of watching a loved one lying agonized in a hospital bed. It’s perhaps the most transparently heartrending of the album’s tracks, and Grodin really pours himself out entirely, leaving it all on the recording. Closer “Dark Adaptation” focuses on the clash of science and religion. It feels more strongly influenced by the death metal side of Nevropathy’s sound than the other main tracks, with an aggressive, buzzsaw guitar leading a fiery main riff and some melancholy slower sections, plus a surprisingly proggy solo. It’s a damn strong conclusion to the album.

A real connection between the artist and their music is often enough to keep a listener engaged despite some warts, and I think that’s the case with The Deafening. I can tangibly feel the sincerity of what Grodin is laying out for the listener, and it works without question. Musically speaking, though, there are some sticking points that my ear balked at, like some sloppy drumming, particularly during extended blast beat passages. Another of these blemishes occurs in both “At the End” and “Dark Adaptation”: when the guitar peels off for a solo, the mixing leaves the rhythm section beneath feeling extremely empty, almost like the master missed including an element. I’d also love the overall mixing to be kinder to the guitar, so that we don’t lose track of those tasty Scandinavian-inspired riffs behind the percussion and vox, which are dominant.

Don’t let that last paragraph discourage you, though! If you’re a fan of authentically affecting, filthy metal with a raw, self-produced vibe then it doesn’t get much more remarkable than The Deafening. This is an album that deals with real shit, full stop, and R. Grodin’s bleeding heart is right there on the record to hear. Make sure you give it a spin.

Favorite track: Dark Adaptation

Score: 7/10

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